Yesterday, the Metropolitan King County Council received 10,000 petitions from citizens urging them to save Metro bus service by enacting the temporary Congestion Reduction Charge (CRC). The petitions were delivered at an event organized by Transportation for Washington (T4WA), a state-wide coalition of pro-transit advocacy groups, against the backdrop of a packed South Kirkland Park & Ride at 3 pm, to symbolize the cars that would be on the road if transit service is cut. The petitions represent citizens from all over King County and 30 major environmental, business, student, and social justice groups (including this blog) and were collected online.
County Councilmembers Larry Phillips and Joe McDermott, Senior Vice President of the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce (GSCC) Charles Knutson, and Kirkland Councilmember Dave Asher were present to speak of the importance of Metro bus service and why they supported the CRC.
Asher said the a 17% cut in service would “directly impact everyone that uses our roadways” by adding 15,000 car trips that switched from transit and would “restrict access to thousands of jobs” for those who rely on transit. Asher said leaders should have the “moral courage to hold back drastic cuts” using the tools given only to King County by the State Legislature.
Knutson, representing 22,000 member businesses in the GSCC hopes the CRC can be enacted with a supermajority to avoid the million dollar cost of placing it on the ballot and thinks people will be paying more in transportation costs if Metro service is cut. 1,400 of those businesses buy bus passes for their employees.
Phillips reiterated that employers rely on Metro to get their employees to work. He says the temporary fee is “worth the cost” to maintain mobility for families on a limited budget, and for people who have no other option like low-income people, students, and people with disabilities.
McDermott reminded that Metro has cut costs and increased efficiency (saving $900 million out of a $1.2 billion shortfall) while raising fares on passengers by 80% to fill the gap. He believes that the other non-committed councilmembers can be persuaded to support the CRC.
When asked on the issue of avoiding a public vote on the CRC, Phillips said that every permanent tax increase for funding Metro was voted on, it’s appropriate for a temporary measure like this to be enacted by the council. McDermott adds that both he and Phillips are up for reelection this year and it’s important to lead on this issue. Brock Howell from T4WA notes that transit funding reform at the state level is needed for a long-term solution.